Colonial Heritage

Restitution Requests

The Museum am Rothenbaum – World Cultures and Arts (MARKK) was founded in the late 19th century in an era marked by colonial power asymmetries. It takes its responsibility for collections from colonial contexts very seriously and will handle restitution requests by descendants from the descendant societies in a respectful and transparent manner. We support the return of illegally appropriated objects in our collections that are subject to a request for restitution. We are also open to consider objects with a central cultural or religious significance for descendants of the societies of origin. The MARKK strives to contribute to reconciliation in view of the injustices occurred.

Every request for restitution will beassessed carefully and timely – if necessary with the help of external experts. All information available to the MARKK about the context of acquisition of the object(s) in question and the knowledge gained about them is shared with the claimants. If the restitution request concerns a group of objects, the works to be returned will be jointly selected.

Once the review is completed, the museum, in whose fiduciary responsibility the collections are held, makes a recommendation to the Governing Board of the Museum am Rothenbaum, foundation under public law. The authority to decide on the return of collection items lies with the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. The collections of the MARKK are state property and, as such, all restitution decisions require the consent of the Hamburg City Parliament.

In answering claims for restitution, we refer to the guidelines of the German Museum Association (Deutscher Museumsbund)  on how to address collections from colonial contexts. The MARKK endeavours to proactively conduct provenance research on the collections within the framework of its ongoing academic research and is currently the recipient of a one-year grant from the German Foundation for Lost Art (Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste) for the project Hamburg’s trade network as procurer of collections for the Museum of Ethnography, Hamburg (1860-1920) and as agent of the colonial transferal of ethnographic objects. Furthermore, the museum is working on the subsequent online presence of its collections for transparency and easier access to its holdings.

Since 2017, the MARKK is critically revisiting its own colonial entanglements and has initiated a comprehensive repositioning process. Close cooperation and a trustful exchange with the creator societies of the collections are of great importance. In addition to potential restitutions, the MARKK engages in conversations about alternative solutions such as the exchange of digitized material, the circulation of objects and long-term collaboration.

For questions please contact

Dr. Johanna Wild
fon +49 40 42 88 79 – 635